A new idea for helping fund Seattle Center

A "Recreational and Cultural Assessment District" could help fund cultural facilities as well as an interlinked necklace of parks and trails in Seattle's North Downtown.
Crosscut archive image.
A "Recreational and Cultural Assessment District" could help fund cultural facilities as well as an interlinked necklace of parks and trails in Seattle's North Downtown.

It is time to develop a better way to preserve, enhance, and add new recreational and cultural spaces for the population that has moved into Seattle's North Downtown and the South Lake Union neighborhoods. One should not have to join an athletic club to play tennis, swim in a pool, and get regular exercise. In the same vein, expediting the completion, connecting, and development of a multitude of recreational opportunities should be a priority for the health and vitality of these growing residential neighborhoods, which have sprung up without the needed open space to serve them. So here's an idea.

Let's consider the creation of a Recreational and Cultural Assessment District to provide the capital and operating funds for these improvements, including for the cultural assets at Seattle Center and nearby. The R-CAD would include South Lake Union, North Downtown, and Seattle Center. It would only be focused on supporting local activities enjoyed by the neighborhoods and not regional facilities like KeyArena. Those facilities can and will continue to attract regional users who pay for their use and maintenance, and should have some regional tax support from visitor taxes.

This assessments (possibly voluntary) will guarantee the creation, maintenance, and security of quality spaces. The Assessment District Board would be elected, an open process that would bring to the neighbors a chance to get directly involved in picking candidates and choosing among a variety of proposals. The District would seek other matching funds from public entities and private donations. Operating within an annually approved budget, the implementation process will be paced and prioritized so the projects can proceed in a cost-effective way.

We have been learning about how Seattle Center is hurting for funds, and may have to turn over some public space to commercial interests to raise more money. Long ago, the Center was thought to be a regional cultural and sports facility, serving the whole county and therefore tapping some countywide funding. But Seattle has become smaller proportionally in the county population and more isolated politically. Now, while only 25 percent of the users of Seattle Center come from the city of Seattle, Seattle taxpayers alone support the operations.

This is not sustainable. Hence the need for some new funds. Neighbors will find it easier to fund such a District if its benefits are spread throughout the new neighborhoods, by trails linking numerous parks: Seattle Center, Kinnear Park, SAM's Olympic Sculpture Park, Lake Union Park, Denny Park, and the new Bell Street linear park. And they will be more generous is they share in the shaping of these needed open spaces and cultural facilities.

The best way to get this started is for many neighbors and businesses to start the petition process to put a proposal on the ballot. The voters within the new Assessment District will have to approve it before any movement occurs. A volunteer, ad-hoc, representative group from the neighborhoods should start putting meat on the bones of this idea, sketching out such things as boundary delineation, suggested assessments for annual funds raised, and a preliminary list of projects.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors